Is Jeb Bush a Republican Obama?

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By David Frum,

from The Atlantic,

The GOP may have found its own candidate for the age of fluidity represented—and accelerated—by the presidency of Barack Obama.

Margaret Thatcher famously said that her greatest success as a politician was the rise of Tony Blair to lead a party he called New Labour: “We forced our opponents to change their minds.” As yet, Barack Obama can make no similar boast. Just the opposite: He radicalized his Republican opponents, and empowered most those who agreed with him least. With the presidential campaign of Jeb Bush, Obama can finally glimpse Thatcher-style success. Here, at last, is an opponent in his own image.

What can the son and brother of a president, grandson of a senator, and great grandson of the founder of the Walker Cup have in common with the son of a failed Kenyan politician? Look beyond the biography to the psychology.

Unlike his more guarded elder brother, Jeb Bush talks openly and candidly about himself. (For the record, I served as a special assistant to President George W. Bush for economic speechwriting from 2001 to 2002.)

Jeb Bush will tell you that, thanks to his marriage to his Mexican-born wife, he is bicultural … speaks Spanish readily. (His wife, reportedly, has not become equally comfortable in English.) His three children speak both English and Spanish.

I’ve actually converted to Catholicism … I’m whatever a W-A-S-C would be. I’m a proud Catholic and a converted one, principally because this was the faith of my wife, and I wanted our children to grow up in a non-mixed marriage. So … no longer a WASP.

In “Immigration Wars”, his book on the subject, Bush and Clint Bolick recommend four major changes to US immigration law:

1) a gradual tightening of eligibility for family unification immigration;

2) tougher enforcement of immigration law in future, especially for visa overstayers;

3) a pathway to legality for the currently illegal;


4) a big surge in migration by skilled workers

On the issues, Jeb Bush and Barack Obama obviously intensely disagree. But politicians are more than walking issue clusters.
-Both Jeb Bush and Barack Obama are men who have openly and publicly struggled with their ambivalence about their family inheritance.
-Both are men who have talked a great deal about the feeling of being “between two worlds”.
-Both derived from their new identity a sharp critique of their nation as it is.
-Both have built their campaign for president upon a deep commitment to fundamental transformation of their nation into what they believe it should be.

Twenty-first century America is a place consumed by issues of identity. More and more Americans identify themselves as “Americans-plus”—fully American, yet also partially something else; in America, but not exclusively defined by their American-ness. An older America expected that people would be all one thing or all another: black or white, male or female, American or foreign. Barack Obama excited a new generation of voters because he—like them—transcended such categories. In this latest scion of the Bush family, of all unlikely persons, the GOP may have found its own candidate for the age of fluidity represented—and accelerated—by the presidency of Barack Obama.

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